Maurice Castle lives a quiet life. Although he works for the English Secret Service, excitement is behind him and he now performs at a somewhat dull office job. All he wants is to live peacefully with his wife Sarah and their son and look forward to retirement. But Maurice’s small section of the Secret Service has a leak and suspicions are growing. And Maurice’s time spent working in South Africa has left a mark on him and what he is and isn’t willing to do. Especially because Sarah is an African woman.
The nice thing about reading Graham Greene is that you know you’re always going to end up reading a well-written, thought-provoking novel. While The Human Factor wasn’t my favourite read from Greene (that honour probably goes to The Heart of the Matter) it was still very good. Maurice might initially seem like a dull, uninteresting character but Greene slowly unfolds who he is, quietly building the tension as the novel progresses. And, as Greene does so well, muddying the waters of what is right or wrong. Who does Maurice Castle owe his loyalty to? Maurice wants to live a quiet life with his wife and child but that has never been straightforward for them, not since Maurice and Sarah met in South Africa where their relationship was illegal.
I think of Greene as an early 20th century writer and much of what I’ve read from him has been closer in time to World War Two so I was surprised to find this book set so late in the 20th century. It was first published in 1978 and is much more focused on both apartheid in South Africa and the Cold War and growing threat of the Soviet Union. I enjoyed this new time setting and learning more about the concerns of government at that time. A lot of books that focus on “the Soviet threat” come from an American perspective so I found it interesting to read about what the English secret service might have been thinking at this time.
All together, you can’t go wrong with Graham Greene and I’m glad to check another of his title’s off my list.